As the yearly coaching carousel begins again across the National Football League with the first coach being fired already in Carolina’s Matt Rhule, the hottest name being thrown around for the prize of this year’s coaching cycle is former Saints head coach Sean Payton. Payton retired from coaching after the 2021 season, but has openly stated he would consider a return if the situation were right.
Despite the fact that Payton likely wants to return to the coaching ranks, don’t forget that the Saints still own his rights, so any team that wants to hire him would likely have to give up draft capital in order to make Payton their next coach. Because of this, while they may want him, you can probably throw a team like the Panthers out due to the fact that the Saints would demand an enormous package to send him to a division rival. So let’s look at some of the teams that could realistically make a play for Payton:
It seems crazy to think that less than a year after a Super Bowl appearance, the Bengals could be looking to move on from Zac Taylor. But the miracle run in Cincinnati is starting to look more like a fluke every week, with offensive “guru” and Sean McVay disciple Zac Taylor’s offense badly struggling despite their immense talent. It feels like a coach like Payton could get the absolute most out of this offense and bring them back into the upper echelon of the AFC if the Bengals continue to struggle through this season.
The Nathaniel Hackett era is off to well, a poor start. After trading multiple first round picks for Russell Wilson and signing him to a massive extension, the Broncos offense has not found its footing at all. Now, all of the blame cannot go to Hackett, as Wilson is simply not playing well either. But even though it’s still early and could turn around, Hackett is not looking like an NFL coach. Could he be the latest one and done, and could Payton be the one to right the ship?
Los Angeles Chargers:
This one is a bit of a long shot, as the Chargers are 3-2 and I believe Brandon Staley will get them to the playoffs this season. But if he is unable to for the second straight year with a rebuilt defense and one of the most talented young quarterbacks in football, you better believe people will be calling for his head. Obviously it will depend on which jobs are actually open, but if Payton had his pick of the litter, I think this one is the best fit.
This one has been the hottest rumor quite literally since the day Payton retired. Mike McCarthy is 4-1 with backup Cooper Rush at the moment, however. That being said, I think Jerry Jones just might be impatient enough that simply making the playoffs won’t be enough. It will take a deep playoff run for McCarthy to keep his job, especially if Jones feels he can land Payton.
New England Patriots:
How about a wild card team?? No, I don’t really believe that Bill Belichick’s job is in serious jeopardy. But Robert Kraft did make some interesting comments this offseason about the fact that the team hasn’t won a playoff game since 2018. Fair or not, one has to think he may be impatient. I think the Patriots will end up being fine this year, but if things go completely off the rails and Kraft did make a change, Payton would be the first person he’d call, and the fit is perfect.